With five minutes remaining in the third period, first-year forward Blake Humphrey waited out the defender, sliding the puck across the net, where fellow first-year forward Marcus Joughin was there to tap in the go-ahead goal.
Senior Neil Shea later put the game away with an empty net goal, which marked his seventh point of the season, an excellent start for Atlantic Hockey’s 2021-2022 Co-Scoring Champion.
“Canisius pushed hard, but we were up to the task,” said Head Coach CJ Marottolo. “It was a very tight game, and we found a way to make some really nice plays at the end of the game to win it. I thought our guys had good resiliency, real strong resolve the entire weekend.”
Sacred Heart University’s 3-1 victory on Saturday, Oct. 29, completed their home sweep over Canisius College, following up on a 6-3 win the previous night when 13 players notched points.
The Pioneers were led by strong performances from Humphrey and Joughin, a pair of standout freshmen who are dazzling in their debut seasons.
“It’s great to get the sweep on the weekend,” said Joughin. “We’re getting contributions from up and down the lineup, which is good to see. We’ve got really good depth and [goalie Luke]Lush has been unbelievable.”
Joughin added a goal in both games, while Humphrey netted two in the first and assisted two in the second.
“Our goal was to come in here and make a difference right away,” said Humphrey.
His four-point weekend comes off the heels of an NEC Rookie of the Week award for his two-point series against Niagara.
Through seven games, he leads the team in points with eight (four goals, four assists), converting on an impressive 33% of his shots.
Humphrey and Joughin are first and second in +/-; at +10 and +7, respectively.
“Their work ethic has been through the charts, they are both real students of the game,” said Marottolo. “I know they aren’t going to be satisfied with where they are. They are going to continue to push to get even better.”
Led by senior goalie Luke Lush, the Pioneers’ defense excelled at thwarting Canisius’s offensive chances. Lush added two more wins to his resume, saving 48 of 52 shots over the series.
“When we’re playing our best, we’re dictating the play, so for us it’s just sticking to what’s been working, sticking to our game plan and our system,” said Lush. “If we just play our hockey one game at a time, the results will take care of themself.”
Sacred Heart is talented from the net out, a deep roster with a strong veteran backbone. They used their fast-paced play style to control the tempo, outshooting the Canisius squad in both matchups.
Humphrey scored the Pioneers’ final goal of the night in the 6-3 victory, capitalizing on a power play opportunity.
“I was on my one-time side and had some room to wind up and rip it,” said Humphrey. “[Sophomore defenseman Conner] Hutchison put it in my sweet spot and luckily it was able to sneak over the goalie’s glove.”
It’s an exciting season for the program, as the team currently sits atop the Atlantic standings and is just two months away from the grand opening of Martire Family Arena.
“I’m really excited to see the atmosphere in the new arena,” said Marottolo. “With this rink, we are going to create an unbelievable home-ice advantage.”
The Pioneers picked up 5 more points on Nov. 4 and 5, going on the road and scoring five straight goals to beat Mercyhurst University 6-3 in game one. In game two, SHU was victorious 2-1 in a shootout.
The Pioneers sit tied atop the AHA standings with 20 points. They travel to Rochester, N.Y., on Nov. 11 and 12 to play RIT, the team they are tied with in the standings.
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.